Thursday, 6 May 2010

Wasted by Nicola Morgan * * * * *

Jess longs to be a singer, to go to music college if her near-alcoholic mother will allow.
Jack has a band in need of a singer, but also a dangerous obsession with chance and luck, building his life around a misunderstood, accidentally overheard conversation.

By chance, they meet.

But Jack has reached a point where he can no longer make decisions for himself, he has come to rely too much on the toss of a coin to choose for him and finally when the flip of a coin WILL decide his future will he hesitate too long?

The story opens with Jess sitting in a waiting room, idly tossing a coin and finishes with the reader being asked to toss a coin to decide the ending, along the way exploring the extent to which chance and luck influence out lives. At several points in the plot we are given 2 versions of events - shown how little things, such stopping to answer the phone or not, waiting for a car to pass before crossing the road or running in front of it, can make a big difference in how events unfold - the seconds difference between near- miss and an accident - and also how the characters may feel they've been lucky when they actually were unlucky.
Whichever way the final flipped coin lands, this marks a point from which the characters must make their own decisions, take charge of their lives and not leave it to chance.

This was one of those rare books that I found really difficult to put down. I was tempted to try to finish it in one sitting though was worried that by dashing at it I would actually spoil it. I DID spin a coin for the ending (heads), though read both, of course.
Since finishing Wasted, I've found myself thinking more about the 'supporting' characters; - about how Jess's mother also, in her own way, had left her life to chance instead of taking control and shaping it herself; and about Jack's twice widowed father, who suffers so much tragedy yet appears to come through it a well-balanced, content individual.
Truly an amazing book that really makes you wonder about the little chances that life turns on. A story about love, fate and the danger of leaving things to chance. The writing style allows/encourages the reader to sit back and see Jess and Jack's story from a distance, to see the options open and close around them, but also, I felt, to think about other good or bad luck stories one has heard or experienced - such as the day when having just joined a dual carriageway the car behind us somersaulted into the air - if we'd been travelling a little slower would we have been in its path? or the tale of my father's friend in the Navy during WW2 who was several times transferred from ships that were hit and sunk shortly afterwards.

Although targeted at a Young Adult readership, I feel this book would appeal to a much wider range - I absolutely enjoyed it (sadly, no where near Young Adult age) and my 12 year old daughter, having read the first chapter, is anxiously waiting to read the rest.
This is an incredibly compelling read, one I thoroughly enjoyed and one which above all made me stop and think.

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